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Retired professor gifts $200,000 for business, nursing students

February 22, 2019

KOKOMO, Ind. – With a $200,000 gift to Indiana University Kokomo, Sita Amba-Rao continues to influence students nearly 20 years after her retirement.

Amba-Rao, professor emerita of management, established the Sita and C.L. Amba-Rao Make A Difference Fund: Business and Leadership, along with scholarships for students in business and nursing, with her gift.

“My hope is that these students thrive in a supportive university environment,” said Amba-Rao, who now lives in Bellingham, Washington. “I want them to gain education and empowerment, achieve success, feel pride in accomplishment, and evolve in life – free to discuss issues and gain true equality.” 

The Sita and C.L. Amba-Rao Make a Difference Fund: Business and Leadership, offers support for the Women in Business and Human Resources Student Association.

The School of Business scholarship is available to juniors with a minimum GPA of 3.1 and is renewable for four semesters. The School of Nursing scholarship is offered to sophomores with a minimum 3.1 GPA and can be renewed for six semesters.

As a passionate proponent for social justice, Amba-Rao prefers the scholarships first be available to students from underrepresented populations, including financially challenged, African American, Native American, LGBTQ+, Hispanic, or single parents.

Her goal is for these students to have equitable access to higher education, and to be valued for their unique contribution to the campus, and for others to learn to appreciate those cultures. 

Jan Halperin, vice chancellor for university advancement, is grateful to Amba-Rao for her “extraordinary generosity of spirit,” as well as her desire to give back.

“It was a joy to work with Sita to realize her vision for our students, and to create a legacy at IU Kokomo,” Halperin said. “I admire her focus and intentional allocation of funds to create opportunities for students that may not have been available in the past. She has a very big heart.”

She previously founded the C.L. and Sita C. Amba-Rao Service Award for undergraduates and Master of Business Administration students. It’s also her fervent desire that the fund and scholarships honor her late husband, C.L. Amba-Rao, who had a distinguished career in the aerospace industry, including work with NASA’s Apollo program.

“Importance of education was in our families,” she said. “It was the traditional norm in the Brahmanical, or caste, culture in India, and not for wealth, per se. Everyone in both sides of the family had struggled, one way or another, to achieve advanced education. Later, that heritage was to be our privilege to share.” 

After another look at the couple’s will, she realized her priorities had changed.

“I had to imagine and envision his real desires and intentions and incorporate those into mine,” she said. “That was how I took initiative to change to education, as well as medical advances. I always ask myself, would he support what I’m doing?”

She started increasing the service award amounts from $500 to $1,000 each, and examined how the campus had changed since retirement, including the addition of athletics, the increase in minority enrollment and the Women in Business and Leadership program.

“I’ve learned there is a diffusion of diversity on the IU Kokomo campus. I’m glad to see it’s come a long way because of the various ethnic groups and international groups,” she said. “I’d like to see more of that. I like to see IU Kokomo come into the world arena of the 21st century, with true diversity.”

This gift counts toward the $3 billion For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign is taking place on all IU-administered campuses including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude in June 2020 to coincide with IU's bicentennial year celebration. To learn more about the campaign, its impact and how to participate, visit forall.iu.edu.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 02/22/2019